I like to think of myself as a pretty laid-back guy; there isn’t much that really winds me up, at least not to the point that I release my temper. Even the concept of rage-quitting a game has only occurred once during my career as a gamer (Stuntman on the PlayStation 2, if you are interested). But this has all changed since I started playing Air Bounce – The Jump ‘n’ Run Challenge.
Not only is this the worst game I have reviewed for TheXboxHub, but it is rage inducing for all the entirely wrong reasons.
In Air Bounce – The Jump ‘n’ Run Challenge you have to run and jump through 45 levels of platforming hell. If you have ever played Clustertruck or the Pure Time Trials on the original Mirror’s Edge, then you know exactly what to expect here.
My first issue became immediately apparent when I booted up the game: the Level Select screen is a nightmare to navigate. It looks simple but can only be controlled via the use of the thumbsticks rather than directional buttons. And you can’t quickly select your chosen level without first highlighting half a dozen other options on the screen before finally getting to Level 1-1.
The Pause menu is even worse, as bringing that up initially brings up three options, none of which are highlighted. You first need to wiggle the thumbstick before a random option is highlighted, and you can then scroll to your required option.
Each set of five stages is themed, to some extent. The first three all merge into one another but later stages do refer to themselves as The Castle, The Desert and, my personal favourite, Space. The Space levels however are virtually identical to everything else just with the brightness turned down and the platforms reduced to fully transparent objects, with only outlines to offer any indication where they are.
Precision is required to nail some of the larger jumps, as platforms are spaced just so that they are at your absolute limit in terms of distance. Herein though lies the second and third issues.
Secondly, the sensitivity – even on the default lowest setting – is ridiculous and feels purposefully designed to be completely unnatural. Air Bounce is made far harder as a result. The slightest of touches to any direction on the thumbstick can easily knock you off course, and in a game where speed, momentum and precision are key this is a major issue.
Then, thirdly is the fact that if you mistime or misplace a jump, you will usually end up stuck in an object. Take for example the large number of pillars that float around, and you are required to jump onto the top of them – a difficult feat in itself. Miss this jump by inches and you could get lucky and jump again as you hit the pillar to give yourself those final few inches, or you could end up stuck in the pillar and not fall to the ground. Technically you haven’t failed the level, but you are stuck there and have to manually restart each time this occurs.
There are a couple of power-ups dotted throughout the levels, designed to help you out. That is, providing they work, but it’s a flip of a coin whether they do or not. There is a launch pad which flings you up in the air to reach those platforms further away, but this will only ever work when you land in the marker on the floor on a downward trajectory. Try it from a standing position and you will get the sound effect, but no additional movement. And also, as a result, a complete loss of crucial momentum comes with it.
There is also a double jump pick-up that allows your next jump to be a double jump, as notated by the icon in the bottom right corner of the screen. However, sometimes that disappears as quickly as you pick it up, making the next jump impossible without restarting the level.
And whilst all this is going on there is a soundtrack blasting out that I can only describe as avant-garde pill head music.
However, if you can stomach the terrible inconsistencies, there is some easy Gamerscore to be had. Air Bounce has 27 in total: the first nine are for playing the first level of each of the nine worlds, with the other 18 coming for finding each of the collectibles hidden throughout. They’re all easy to find but the difficulty comes from having to play through three or four levels just to get to the one that has the collectible in it. And it is tough to recommend that grind to anyone, achievement hunter or not.
As a result, Air Bounce – The Jump ‘n’ Run Challenge on Xbox should be avoided at all costs. An already challenging platformer is made unnecessarily difficult with the X and Y axis being far too sensitive, and then made a complete joke with inconsistencies in almost every department. But not all hope is lost: these issues could be fixed, thus making Air Bounce a better game; even then though, it should only really appeal to those looking for easy Gamerscore.